Stathis Lazarides has been involved in electronic music for many years now. His career has seen him take on numerous roles within the industry, from working in a record shop, through to vinyl distributer, on to producing music and everything in between. That leaves him perfectly placed to not only see what works, but also what doesn't. So when Stathis realised he had become frustrated with the way electronic music seems to have stagnated, he didn't just moan about it; he decided it was time to bring something fresh and innovative to the table. And with that, TerraFerma came into being.
We recently caught up with Stathis to find out just what it is he has in store.
What was the impetus for setting up TerraFerma?
The concept of TerraFerma has been cooking in my head for some time now, but I suppose the trigger to materialise the idea was the current state of the Electronic Music scene and the fact that it has morphed into a corporate style industry. Furthermore, it is the loss of any kind of artistic direction in the name of profit and expansion.
What would you say was TerraFerma's ethos?
We want to promote Dance Music for what it is, music to dance too! The star system mentality and the notion of worshiping rich and famous DJs, who in turn play music by producers who do not get paid for their work, is an insult to the originators of this scene and what they set out to achieve, together, all those years ago.
The star system mentality & the notion of worshiping rich & famous DJs, who in turn play music by producers who do not get paid for their work, is an insult to the originators of this scene & what they set out to achieve, together, all those years ago...You've said that your “aim is to create a system where the profits from one activity feed another, creating an infinite loop of new and fresh ideas and projects, bringing more and more creative people on board.” Can you explain to us how you envisage this happening?
We are not agents or managers and we are not looking into representing artists. Terraferma is a non-profiteering platform, which, in our case, means that, after paying everybody who participates in a specific project a decent wage, we invest the rest of the profits towards another activity so we can bring on board, and pay, more artists.
It is the concept of resisting on fattening up our wallets in order to introduce great art and support financially more and more artists through our activities. Our job is not to “make money” but to create work for artists through innovative activities.
How do you feel you mark yourselves as different from your contemporaries at TerraFerma?
There are lots of great people that promote the same values and ideals for our scene. From DJs to promoters and managers, there is a good pocket of resistance and I am proud to be a part of this group. It is true that being humble and quiet and focusing on the music is a great mantra for artists, but this applies to an ideal world and our world is far from ideal.
Furthermore, many can say, “All this commercialisation has nothing to do with the underground, nothing has changed for us”. Well, this is like saying that we all live in the same house that's on fire but because the heat hasn't reached our room yet, we'll just continue as normal! We need to be activists through our events; we need to produce strong statements through art. If we want our values and ideals to resonate to future generations, we have to make some noise about them.
You've said, “Anyone that possesses basic computing skills can have a go at chasing the dream and earn a living from being creative.” Do you not think that such a situation has led to an over-saturation of the creative markets and, rather than making things easier, the advancement of technology has in fact made it far more difficult to make a living out of such things, despite the fact that it's made them more accessible?
Absolutely! One prime example of companies investing hugely on making their products idiot proof is Pioneer. It goes without saying that they are market leaders on professional CD players and have been for 25 years. Their latest cd player is the most complicated piece of kit they have produced, but even a 10 year old can operate it without previous experience, mainly because of the sync function!
Companies operate first and foremost on profit and do not care if the easy access and operation of technology will produce mediocre art.
Do you think that the way people now consume art, whether that be music, film, or anything else, cherry-picking what they want in the search for instant gratification, has had an adverse influence on the art that is being produced? If so, who out there, for you, is fighting in the vanguard against this?
I don't think you can consume art, but rather experience and learn from it. There's a lot of amusing stuff out there, but I wouldn't call it art. Entertainment exists, so it fills the void of boredom, but true art is the inspirational, spine tingling stuff that you don't see every day. One artist that has the whole world in his hands, but who choses artistic integrity over fame and fortune, is the street artist Banksy. He is a shining example of someone who choses art to raise important social issues and his method has proven not only a celebration of true art, but also a way of making people think about the world around them. Activism through art is very 21st century in my opinion.
Although fighting for ideals & morality in the art world is not a new concept, I am a strong believer that the way we will apply those principles is not something that you see very often in our scene...
You “want to create an environment where the incentive for artists is not based on self-interest but the common good of their community and it's values.” This sounds like an excellent idea. How are you going to make it happen?
The first thing to consider here is that, although this might sound strange, financial incentives do not fair very well with creative people. Various studies (the most important from M.I.T.) have shown that the opposite actually happens! This kind of incentive might work for the trained monkeys of the corporate world that requires not much cognitive effort, but it does little for the quality of art that someone can produce in the creative fields.
Don't get me wrong, we live (unfortunately) in a monetary system and it's important to put food on the table, but focusing on profit has never created anything inspirational. And I'd rather have music that mesmerises and inspires instead of music that just works.
Here's an example: you commission 2 artists to produce a painting each. The first artist receives his brief and it is about a commercial product such as a shampoo and he has to produce something that will increase sales. The second artist gets a very different brief. His job is to produce a piece that will go towards saving the rainforest and his work will make an actual difference; as far as I am concerned, the second artist will produce something more memorable and inspiring and this is the way of thinking we are set to achieve!
What's upcoming for TerraFerma in the near future then?
We are not in a hurry, neither we are here to make a quick buck. The most important process for the first few months of operation is to raise awareness about our philosophy. Although fighting for ideals and morality in the art world is not a new concept, I am a strong believer that the way we will apply those principles is not something that you see very often in our scene.
And what about for the rest of the year? Any secrets you can let us in on?
The plan is to reveal our projects gradually throughout the year. What I can say at this time is that we are collaborating with Be@tv in order to present a new format of dj broadcast that has never been tried before. It is all about focusing on the dance floor and the movement of the human body rather than the dj or the stage.
The making of this video is the first ever TerraFerma production and it was filmed in December 2013 at Box photographic studio in Shoreditch, East London.
It was filmed and edited by Alex Simpson and the dancer and choreographer is Patrice Moniz.
Music is written and produced by Sepp and artistic direction and production by TerraFerma.
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